Wednesday, December 19, 2007

a scriptural investment strategy

Whenever I read thse words from James 4:13-17, I am awakened again to the importance of seeking God as I "plan" my life.

"Now listen you who say 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that'..."

I have recently been teaching a three week Sunday School class on the subject "A Scriptural Investment Strategy". About sixty have bene participating in a workshop environment that included three sections.

Part #1 A "State of the Union Address", an overview of how I am--we are--doing in relationships to God, family, my job/vocation, etc.

Part #2 A "Survey of My Assets and Liabilities", inventorying my strengths and weaknesses, identifying potential areas of needed growth

Part #3 A "Strategy for Growth and Joy", an examination of scriptural principles to guide me in challenging myself to seek God's will in facing the new year

The final section included a "Twelve Step program for Reallignment", built around the concept that as believers we are commanded to "offer your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to god--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will", Romasn 12:1,2.

I believe that we can discover how to move from the self-centeredness of the pursuit of our own will ("plans") to a reallignment of our will with God's through His work of grace, because "now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness..." Romans 6:22.

Here are some suggestions to prayefully consider through this twelve step program...

R-ecognize where the areas of need for growth exist. Own them. II Peter 3:18

E-valuate the resources you have in Christ to address those needs. Thank God. Philippians 4:13

A-ffirm your need fo help from God and for personal discipline. Ask Him. Hebrews 12:11-13

L-ist what you can do to address the needs before you. Be intentional. II Corinthians 12:9

L-et go of any excuses that would keep you from moving ahead. Be firm. Philippians 3:13,14

I-dentify an accountability partner to help chart your progress. Invite someone. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

G-et started by coupling your personal resources with the resources you need for help and support. Think carefully. Galatians 6:2-5

N-etwork with a small group--Bible study, care group, Sunday school class, etc.--as a necessary help/support resource. Make time. Hebrews 10:24,25

M-onitor your progress by measuirng where you are with the Word of God. Read daily. II Timothy 3:15-17

E-xpect this to be a process, not an overnight "fix". Be real. II Thessalonians 1:3

N-egotiate with others the support you need. Speak clearly. Romans 12:9-21

T-hank God for what He is doing today. Begin now. Colossians 3:15-17.

As we enter a new year I am reminded of these words from Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." If I want to invest in my life with things that will produce eternal dividends--things of lasting value--then I must embrace God's will--God's plans--for my life.

If I do this, I can face the new year with "hope and a future" that will surpass any plans I could make for myself independent of God. Reallgnment may be in order..take the steps.

(Materials are available through Grace Fellowship Church at 8040 South Highway 49, Jackson, California 95642, or, at 209-223-1971)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


So you wake up and you are in a hospital and a doctor is explaining your recent loss of memory, some of your unusual behaviors, and affirming your excellent health. He finishes by saying, "But, we have found a large mass on your brain".

It's on to a bigger hospital, more tests, anxious people crowding around to know how you are doing...and then another doctor arirves with the newest verdict. "You have a malignant tumor that has grown deep into your brain. We are going to try to take it out although I am pretty sure we can't get it all. We will deal with what's left after surgery is over..."

Now some friends arrive, family members begin to congregate...and the pastor comes. He sits quietly by your hospital bed while you are trying to make sense of everything that is happening, bewildered by a brain beseiged by an attacking tumor. Your pastor asks if you are afraid--you weakly nod your head--and he quickly affirms how natural that is but hurries to assure you of the confidence and peace we can have knowing God is on the scene.

Your pastor prays for you--your spouse is crying--and you are hanging on to every word, trying to make sense of everything that is happening. Trying to believe and to have faith, still confused by what you can't process because your brain is running on low.

And then the pastor leaves...your spouse follows him our of the room, hopefully to get some last minute tidbit of hope.

In bed you try to sleep. Tomorrow is surgery day and you want to be ready. What was that surgery for again? Your mind is cluttered with fragments of information, unable to be processed. What you can remember is who Jesus is...and so you call out to Him in the darkness of your room.

Friday, December 07, 2007

when a young person dies...

A week ago yesterday I was called to the hospital where a thirty-two year old mother of three children had died in her sleep. She was a sepcial part of our church family and a special friend to me. We had spent time together on many occasions visiting about her life and more than once we had prayed over the telephone for the migraine headaches that haunted her. In the past year her husband survived brain surgery and we walked together through that crisis with her family as well.

As I stood with this young woman's mother, she grieved quietly by saying, "Mothers are not made to bury their daughters..."

As I visited with her husband, her sisters, her extended family and many of her closest friends, I was struck by the fact that when a young person dies we are "gifted" with a sharpened sense of our mortality.

Six hudnred people filled our sanctuary and the local mortician commented to me that this was one of the largest funerals in our small county...because the news of a young life interrupted in full bloom has such impact.

As I have listened over the past days I have heard young people and older folks alike say to me in many different ways the same thing--"We need to be more serious about our relationship to God because we don't know what time any of us could be called home..."

When a young person dies, reminded of my mortality, I am also reminded of my hope in Christ. Ii is enough to make me think about living every day as if it could be my last...and rejoicing about what lies ahead in Christ.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

reflections on a special day

The weather was unseasonably beautiful(crisp and sunny), the food was predictably scrumptious (we have great cooks!), the music was appropriately praiseful (the McCarty family outdid themselves), the envronment was "family-style" warm(there's a new word picture)...

The turnout was somewhat disappointing...but only in the sense we could have fed more and we know there were many who missed an opportunity to experience the legions of workers we had positioned to serve up an afternoon of God's love!

Still, in the final analysis, after I had joined with others imn the final tasks of scouring food-pitted pans and shining the stainless steel kitchen sinks, what stood out in my mind was only intense satisfaction!

*We fed over 225 which included 75-100 from the community who came with various needs

*We had nearly 150 workers from the church who helped in some way to make this outreach happen

*We gave out over 50 coats and jackets to needy families

*We reveled in the testimonies of many there who expressed their thanks in varied responses whose central theme was, "Thanks for a place to come where we felt loved".

*We went home tired but energized, full of turkey and overflowing with thanksgiving to God.

"Thanks be to God for His indescribale gift!" II Corinthians 9:15

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


We will be saying "thanks" to God on Thanksgiving Day by feeding approximately 200 people--homeless, elderly, needy, lonely. We have a glorious opportunity--yes, that is exactly how I feel about it--to share the love of God with them and to express our thanks to God for His goodness to us!

Anout 125 of us are lined up for the task. We will begin gathering together tomorrow morning--some have already been setting up tables, decorating, cooking--and opening the doors to the public at 11:30 a.m. We are preparing a wonderful home-cooked meal, sharing special music and testimonies of God's faithfulness, and distributing gifts for each child and coats and sweaters to those who need them.

When it is all over about 75 of us will remain to share Thanksgiving together and to rejoice in what God has done.

Can't wait!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Sometimes I am overcome by the masses of people who need help. Today is one of those "sometimes"...

...someone needs help because their propane bill is behind and they are sleeping in the cold without heat

...someone needs help with gas money because they are homeless and have been moved from the location they had been illegally camped in

...someone need help because they are in a fractured relationship and they are really hurting

...someone needs help because everything they say seems to estrange them even further from the love of their life

...someone needs help because they are struggling to keep their head above water as they wrestle with addiction

There are alot of us who need help; in fact, at some level we all need help. To each of these who come we can offer prayer for God's guidance and direction...and $25 for gasoline, "catch up" monies for the propane so the gas can be turned on, empathy for the hurting one, counsel for the who offends without thinking, and a "pep talk" built on the promise of God's strength for the one who is trying to say "no".

Help! When you go to God you have gone to the right place.

All I have to do is direct people that way, even though the sheer enormity of those who need help--just like me--can be frightening.

I am glad "God" is what we have to offer here.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Someone mislead me this last week. They said something was true and it was not. When confronted with their deception, they continued to deny they said it, even though others affirmed they heard it as well. Their dishonesty affected alot of people.

Someone said I lied today. It was over a small thing (lies are really never "small" or "white") but the sting of those words--which were untrue--was painful for me because I value telling the truth and hearing the truth. This unwarranted accusation affected only me. I am uncertain that this person feels they did anything wrong in calling me a "liar".

Being honest is not always easy. I used to lie before I was a Christian; in fact, I told the same lies so many times it is difficult to remember what was actually truth and what was fiction. When I became a Christian I purposed to start telling the truth. The first truth was that I weas a sinner and a liar and I needed God's help to change my behavior.

That's been forty-two years ago now and I have slipped and shaded the truth since more than once. But I never felt good about it and I have sought to be honest in all of my words from that day forward.

Whether being misled--and failing to discern it--or being called a liar--and not deserving it--it is clear to me that "honesty is the best policy". That phrase might be worth remembering...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

a family wedding

I just returned from a family wedding. This was from Beverly's side of the family so there were alot of people who were unfamiliar to me. Still, I concluded this weekend that family weddings are a good thing!

*They provide a time for families to come together; we live scattered apart from one another and this provides an opportunity to "catch up" with members of the family we don't get to see very often.

*The insitution of marriage is being diminished by today's pundits so our presence at a wedding affirms its importance to us!

*Weddings provide a format for us to remember the marriage vows we made to each other--however long ago--and to "renew" them in our own minds.

When the next family wedding comes around and you are less than excited about attending, remember the values to be rediscovered!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

what makes a great worship service,,,?

I would like to bottle up what we shared last Sunday in our worship service and have a drink of it each week because it was a great worship experience. Why? Let me share a few observations...

1. We shared Communion. Someone said to me that Communion challenges us to be honest about our walk with God and opens us in a unique way to the Holy Spirit's gentle tug is His direction.

2. We sang loudly. There is something about opening our hearts ad voices unto the Lord and lifting our praises full voice to the heavens. There were a few moments Sunday when we actually did that together as a body!

3. We participated in the message. There were verbal "amen's" and other directed interactive expressions throughout the message that made it come alive in our reactions and responses.

4. We prayed together--some before church, many during church and some in small groups after church. There was a special awareness of God's divine presence.

5. We shared together. After church there were fellowship pockets all over the sanctuary, in addition to the refreshment area. People were conecting with one another in a loving way, not unlike that suggested by our text in Philippians 2:1-4.

It was the Word of God in action, our lives an outward expression of the inward affirmation of the truth of God's word.

Let's take another drink from that bottle as we come to church on Sunday and truly worship together once again.

I can't wait...can you?

Monday, October 15, 2007


I like order in my life. Paul adds a postcript to his I Corinthians teaching regarding the operation of the gifts in the body of Christ when he says "...everything should be done in a fitting and orderly manner..." I find comfort in those words because confusion and disorder hamper me since I am a perfectionist by nature. Throw in a little impatience and you can see what drives me crazy!

So...we are experiencing disorder in our home. We are having some repair work done following a seemingly "harmless" water leak in our refrigerator's ice maker connection and our kitchen has been pretty much unusable with much more work yet to be done!

And company is coming for the weekend.

I am having to learn to step back, take a deep breath, and to remember there are alot worse things that could happen to me than what is happening at 282 California Drive. A neighbor fell and broke her wrist and is experiencing severe pain and reordering of her personal schedule. Another friend recently lost his home and has moved into a rental. Still another friend is dealing with horrific challenges at work that would be enough to throw anyone into a funk.

So I can survive this season of disorder.

But I am glad that our God is a God of order, and that He gives grace to handle life when it isn't as orderly as we wished it was!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Men can sing!

I returned late Saturday evening from our Men's retreat--the rest would be coming home Sunday afternoon. There were 35-40 of us together for part of three days and what is still ringing in my ears is the sound of men singing!

Men can sing!

I felt as if I were surrounded by angels lifting their voices in praise to God. The sounds were unrestrained yet amazingly musical and beautiful. I imagined that this must be something like heaven, where people are pictured in Revelation as gathered together and singing, "To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever." That group is described as "every creature in heaven and earth and under the earth, and on the sea, and all that is in them...", a significantly larger group than our Men's Retreat!

Men can sing!

Even though we were relatively few in number, we sang uninhibited and unaware of anyone around us. We sang from our hearts--our work and worries a distant memory for the moment.

I am wishing today that I was back here in that setting, my heart and mind fixed on worshipping Jesus. Though I am back in my office--saddled by the work of the day--I can still sing!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

prayer, the first resort

Two days ago I was wrestling with some real issues in ministry and starting to worry about what path of direction I could identify for resolution. And then it hit me...I need to pray.

And I did.

Yesterday I sent out e-mails to about 30-40 church families inviting them to join me at noon today for a time of prayer at the church for these issues that are confronting our church family. Several responded that they would pray at work, or, at home, and a handfull showed up for the prayer time today. I felt that corporately as a body we needed to pray.

And we did.

But there was just a few of us. When it comes to prayer, that is how it usually is--just a few. There are probably some excellent reasons why at short notice people could not clear their schedules to join us for prayer at ther lunch break, but even when it is on the calendar for weeks, the response is pretty much the same.

Why is it that prayer meetings draw such a small crowd?

My experience is that prayer is most intensively pursued in a crisis, but even then, as a last resort. Once other alternatives have been exhausted, we think to pray. Maybe it is because of what we think--or don't think--about prayer.

I am convinced as we face the issues before us at our local church that the ONLY answer is prayer..and that prayer should be the first resort when we face challenges such as we are.

It may taken an even graver crsis for us to learn that.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

what matters most

It's hard to avoid the fact that we are teetering on the brink of a recession. Given the plummeting housing market and again escalating oil prices, it seems apparent that we are headed for a bumpy ride into the new year.

About this time each year our church begins planning for its new budget. Effecting our planning is the gloomy financial forecast and a huge increase in our financial responsibilities to "set-in-concrete" items, icluding a large building payment. Through our first ten plus years finances have not been a significant issue but the combination of the current financial climate as well as the new financial obligations we have, has led us to a time of prayerful and careful contemplation.

We are faced with the prospect of cutting back ministry expenditures--there is, ironically, some flexibility here--and we are wrestling with how to do that, and at the same time, be faithful to our calling in Amador County.

I am more familiar with those kinds of issues in our personal finances--times in the past when our set payments have been such a significant part of our budget that we have had to make decisions about discretionary items, including how much we eat out, whether or not we can afford a vacation, how much longer we should wait for buying new clothes, etc. But as I think about those times I remember that we simply made the necessary sacrifices to get through the challneging times. Sometimes that meant cutting back, having a garage sale of things we really did not need or use, and even working a side job.

Whether at church or at home, one thing is certain. In order to meet budgets we must either increase income or cut spending--or, perhaps, a little of both. In the midst of those decisions we must prioritize what matters most. I am preaching Sunday from Philippians 1:12-18 where Paul talks about "what matters most" and "the most important thing". Paul said for him it was that the gospel was preached. At Grace Fellowship, I hope we will affirm our calling to the community and make the necessary sacrifices--giving more and spending less where we can--so that we can continue uninterrupted our ministry during challenging financial times.

I am skipping breakfast this morning. When I meet with the guys it will be just coffee for me...and maybe that saved $5 can be used for something more important. It's a small sacrifice to preserve what matters most.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

practice what you preach

The responsibility of preaching and teaching God's Word is not to be taken lightly. I missed this part of my life while I was on sabbatical but re-entry into this world with all of its preparation and responsbility has been hugely (is that a word?) challenging.

I have chosen the topic of joy following my immersion in the book of Philippians for the last six months. Paul's teaching on this is fortified by his unswerving commitmnet to Christ in unimaginable circumstances, and it is all built around his persuasion, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain". There is a focus in those words that escapes me as I work through my life. I am struggling to choose joy over the stress and demands of pastoral responsibility. I am sorry if that is too transparent or self-disclosing, but preachers need to be "real" authentic people too.

It is important for me to be able to practice what I preach. I do believe what I say from the pulpit and in the counseling office. I have confidence in the Word of God. God keeps His promises.

And so this morning, as I sit before my computer unfolding another sermon, I am reminded of the credibility of the words I will share again on Sunday. They are words of life--words that work--and I must consicentiously choose to put them into practice.

I choose joy today.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Our church is sponsoring a "Love and Respect" seminar taught by some alumni of the program in our local church. About thirty couples are participating and I am finding the lecture material helpful, shown on a video prior to small group discussion.

On my return to my office following sabbatical I have been reminded of the continuing need for counseling in marriages that are struggling. An article in the SACRAMENTO BEE today reminded me that less than 50% of marriages will make it to the twenty-five year mark. As I see the young children in many of these marriages--some of them needing counseling because of the abuse and dysfunction to which they have been exposed--my heart is truly grieved. The cycle of divorce and remarriage is undeniable as well as the legions of children who are forever scarred and left in the train of its impact.

When I go to the seminar at our church on Wednesday evenings, I sit in the back and survey our families who have chosen to attend. When I hear the simple truth that "women need love and men need respect", and think how simple that statement is, and consider how that is translated into life, I am encouraged that thirty couples are being handed some great tools to ensure they do not become a part of the sad statistics that tell the tragic story of failed communication.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

a sad story

Back in the office just a few short days. I have already been reminded what a sad world we live in when we live without moral guidelines. When our decisions are only self-serving with no consideration of their impact on others, we are doomed to the ultimate consequences of being alone. When the choices we make fail to take into account the long-term repercussions, we are left to the short-term allurement of feeling "high", with the inevitable residue of "real life".

Someone chooses to lay their ministry aside just for an evening and now their future is clouded with only the certainty of incarceration and hopeful rehabilitation.

Someone decides that the rigors of marriage are too great, and leaves God, husband and children and family aside to escape to her secret place with a new companion.

Someone drives their motorcycle into a cool evening breeze and , unexpectedly, into eternity, when he is broadsided by a negligent driver. A wife and three children are left to grieve.

These are all sad stories--stories that did not have to be--but came to pass because someone in the heat of the moment chose wrongly--carelessly and selfishly.

Don't be a part of your own sad story. Consider your choices and your decisions. And ask God to give you the courage and the insight to choose wisely.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


It is abouit 7:30 a.m. and in 90 minutes I will be back with my church family, assuming the role I had before I left for my sabbatical--the role of pastor. It is a role I relish, and a role I missed while I was gone.

I relish it because God has called me to it. in so doing, He has made me in such a way that I find my greatest joy when I am serving God as He intended for me to do.

It is a role I missed. Separated from our church family and not preaching and teaching each Sunday left an empty place in my heart. I discovered that when I am not doing what God created me for, something is missing. This is not to say that rest and study and rejuvenation were not eseential for me, but the whole experience created a renewed passion for the work God has called me to.

I will be teaching from the book of Philippians for the next several months--the product of several months of study and writing before and during my sabbatical. The title of my series is "Designed for Joy". It is a reaffirmation of my conviction that true joy comes from understanding my relationship to the gospel--what God created me for, what in grace He has done to accomplish His divine purposes in my life, and the joy that comes from responding in obedience to His call.

It begins again this morning for me. It's my first Sunday back and I am full of joy.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Headed home...

It's incredible that my thirteen weeks of sabbatical will be over this week. In some ways it has been a long, long time because I have been separated from my friends, my home and my passion to preach. On the other hand, it seems as if it was just days ago that we told our friends "good-bye" at a church potluck, and then headed out for a wedding I performed in Temecula...and then on to twelve weeks of rest and relaxation, courtesy of our church family at Grace Fellowship.

These have been great days. I have rested, hiked, read, written, sat by the beach, eaten too much, swam in the ocean, visited other churches, journalled, exercised, played with grandchildren, shopped, looked at real estate, and, generally, lived without a watch or a schedule.

Day after tomorrow we are headed home.

I am ready.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Word was preached!

We visited the church where Bev's son, Tim, is the pastor. He has been gone the last two weeks so we were especially anxious to hear him. He preached from Psalm 37 about the justice of God. We were challenged to consider how we respond to the situiations of injustice around us and pointed us to Jesus' example in giving up His life for us when He was unjustly accused.

It was a great sermon and it was a special treat to sit in church and hear the Word of God preached clearly.

And it was great to know it was my stepson I was listening to...makes a stepfather proud!

Monday, August 20, 2007

the beach

I can't afford to live at the beach: I have checked prices in every beach town along the California coast and even a bungalo is out of my reach! But I can enjoy the beach...and that I have done as we have spent about eight weeks of our sabbatical located within a short driving distance from the ocean.

We have visited Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, Montana de Oro Beach, Shell Beach, Los Osos Flacos Beach (bet you never heard of that one), Grover Beach, Oceano Beach, Morro Bay and Guadalupe Beach whle here on the Central Coast. What they have in common is the Pacific Ocean and there is something about its beauty, sound and fury that draw me to it.

This morning we walked along a Coastal Walk with the Pacific Ocean on the bluffs below us and fibe million dollar homes above us in the Shell Beach area. It was a bit foggy and overcast with the sun peaking through the last part of our walk. It was exhilarating! As beautiful as the mansions on one side were, God's creative genius as reflected in the ocean views easily surpassed them.

We will be back in Sutter Creek in about two weeks; the beach will be miles away but the memories of our weeks here will remain for a long time.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Tim and Chad, Bev's two sons, have seven children between them and Chad and Julie are expecting their fourth in February. Jeff, my son, has one child and Jennifer, my daughter, has two children, so there are ten grandchildren...or 10.5 right now.

One of the bonuses of our sabbatical in the Nipom area is spending time with the seven grandchildren we have nearby. Sage, Eden, Seke, Haaken, Kyle, Julianne and Nate--these are the kids we are enjoying when we are able to make connection these five weeks. We had three over to swim, babysat for four last week for two days, and then had six over to swim on Saturday. We are discovering that we are older now, and that being grandparents is, gratefully, different than being parents. Our grandkids are delightful--well-behaved and very loving--but they are filled with bottomless energy and ravenous appetites so keeping them busy and fed is a fulltime challenge...but worth every minute of it.

I am missing my grandchildren in Texas, but enjoying our grandchidlren here. We are thankful for this additional benefit of our sabbatical.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


A recent quesiton on Jeopardy revealed that Nipomo, California has the best micro-climate in the United States. That is where we are for these last five weeks! The picture above shows an area just a few miles west of Nipomo, the end of a 1.5 mile hike that brings you through beautiful terrain to the ocean.

The weather has been foggy but this evening it was beautiful. We enjoyed being in Bev's son's church in San Luis Obispo (Grace Church) but it made us homesick for Grace Fellowship. It is healthy for me to sit back and to listen to someone else share the Word and to be challenged in my personal spiritual life. I have been studying Philippians and am enjoying the things God is showing me that I hope to share with ym church family on my return.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Final Phase

We are home for a few days after a terrific time at Santa Cruz and Felton. We enjoyed the ocean, cool weather and several visits from friends. We worhipped three or four times at Mt. Hermon Conference grounds, situated just a few miles from us.

We leave Wednesday for Nipomo and will be near Bev's family for the next five weeks (they live in San Luis Obispo, about twenty minutes away). Many of you have e-mailed, written--asking if I am writing. I have done most of my preparation work and will begin the task of writing, hopefully, in this next phase, although I have no lofty goals for completion. Thanks for all the notes of interest and support.

One thing we know for certain--we miss our church family. We look forward to the day we will be worshipping together with you and serving with you again...soon!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

checking in

We are at Mt. Herman tonight checking our mail and listening in on a service. What a neat resource for us, just five minutes from our camping spot.

We enjoyed Santa Cruz Bible Church for the second Sunday and were impressed with the clarity of the presentation of the truth of God's Word--a welcome voice here in Santa Cruz County.

Beverly and I are enjoying our alone time together and with God. We are asking God to reveal Himself to us in a way that will rejuvenate our spirit and hearts for is working! We are already anxious for September and our return to our church family.

In the meantime, we are thankful for our faithful staff and church family. God is working at Grace Fellowship and we sensed His presence when we sneaked in last Sunday. The Word of God was preached well, and we felt challenged and encouraged by the Word we heard.

Out of sight...but not out of mind...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

We paused from our sabbatical for a moment to join a young couple in holy matrimony yesterday. And what a holy day it was!

This young man and young woman are special to me. The young lady has overcome some horrible obstacles in her life and is now emerging as the woman God intended for her to be. Her husband of one day--with an equally challenging past--is growing up as well, and working regularly at learning a new trade and assuming responsibility for the family to which he has committed himself.

There was a tearful moment for all of us when I paused during the ceremony to say a personal word about my special friends--and it was bathed in the awareness of the miracle that God alone can perform in redeeming our lives.

This couple I suggest, is all of us, emerging from our pasts of failure and immaturity, and grabbing hold of the hope we have in Christ that truly tranforms us.

This was a meaningful pause to celebrate the joy of serving Jesus!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

a break from sabbatical...

We are home for a few days, gearing up for a camping trip to Lake Tahoe...except a ravaging fire has brought huge damage and loss to that area, and as I am writing, the fire is still not contained. Sadly, we will not be going to Camp Richardson at Tahoe as planned.

We just returned from a wedding at which I officiated in Southern California, a cruise to the Mexican Riviera (courtesy of Bev's mother) and a week in Palm Springs. All of these were good experiences and we capped it all off with a day with some of the grandchildren in San Luis Obispo and a night at Carmel.

We are three weeks into our thirteen week sabbatical, with lots of fun and exciting things yet to comne. But it is good to be home in our own beds. I sneaked over to my office last night to check my mail and to gaze whimsically at our church facilitiesw. Having not preached the last two weeks I was literally homesick for the pulpit (only a preacher would understand that!)

And we don't have a pulpit...but you get the idea.

So it's off with the trailer for three weeks at Smithwoods RV Park in Felton; a true adventure awaits us since we had never heard of it until we went on line today!

In the meantime, we are grateful for this time God has provided and we are enjoying this mini-break from sabbatical as we get ready for the beautiful outdoors and the nearby Pacific Ocean.

We'll be in touch!

Monday, June 04, 2007


Sunday following our morning worship service we went outside to baptize three young people. We don't have a baptismal in our sanctuary--hopefully, we will add a portable one to our "wish list"--but we have a large metal container that we have fashioned into a baptismal tank.

Our candidates for baptism included a young teenage girl, a younger teenage boy and a young lady who recently came to Christ. It was meaningful for me to baptize these three young believers who seem serious about their ongoing relationship with Christ and followed in this step of obedience.

The setting was unusual--underneath an outdoor covered extension of our new facilities, surrounded by picnic tables and a congregation anticipating the potluck to follow. About 300-400 were shoulder-to-shoulder trying to get a glimpse of the baptism, some visiting, but others with their eyes and hearts trained on the moment. Baptism is a special moment. It is a moment of celebration for those who have come to know Christ and are making public testimony of that commitment.

Every member of the body of Christ rejoices...and on a day when people joined our church, leadership was prayed for and a picnic fellowship was enjoyed by everyone, the greatest moment of the day for me was the celebration of three young believers moving ahead in their spiritual life as we baptized them.

That, indeed, should be the focus of the church.

Friday, June 01, 2007

sabbatical is here!

A funeral today, a weddng tomorrow, worship on Sunday...and, then, sabbatical!

Today we had a beatiful memorials ervice for Claire, our senior pastor's wife and tomorrow I wil perform a wedding for a recent convert from our church. Although these are very diverse events, the joy about both is that these are Christian--one older, one younger--who are a testimony to Christ because of their love and obedience.

Claire served the Lord for over sixty years; Mark has been a Chistian for a few short years. Claire gave her life in service to the Lord and Mark is beginning to do the same. Both inspire me to be a faithful minister.

As I leave for sabbatical--thirteen weeks worth--I leave with a desire to come back refreshed and renewed for continued ministry for the Lord. People like Claire and Mark make me want to keep going!

NOTE: I will be making entries on my blog page throughout the summer; if you are reading check in with me and let me know!

Monday, May 28, 2007

family first

We just concluded a four week series about the family at Grace. I entitled the series, "The Family...According to the Bible" and challenged our church families to commit to the principles of God's Word as they define husband-wife relationships and parent-child responsibilities. Because so many of those principles are counter-cultural, and dismissed as "archaic" and "old-fashioned", it was encouraging to see our young families verbally respond to the counsel of the Word.

We have been evaluating the overall ministry of our local church and asking, "What are we doing to build strong families?" That question seems especially relevant when there are aggressive steps to redefine the family, to substitute alternative forms of family, and, generally, to relegate the family to secondary status in terms of importance and viability.

What is tragic is that the rate of divorce is as high within the church community as it is outside of it. Incidences of immorality and moral failure are not foreign to the body of Christ. This should not be so if we are affirming in word and deed the clear teaching of God's Word about commitment, unconditional love, sacrificial service and purity.

I believe in "family first", even though I sometimes skewed the lines between work and home priorities as a younger pastor, husband and father. As I grew older, and gained some perspective about what really mattered, God changed my focus. Still today I battle the workaholic nature within me that would pull me away from my wife and my home. It is a daily discipline to determine what comes first.

Are you winning the battle of priorities? Have you embraced the fact that your family is your immediate sphere of influence and responsibility? I have often though how tragic it would be to "win the world" and lose my family.

With six children grown and ten grandchildren growing, I want to be sure that I herald the scriptural importance of preserving and protecting our families..."familiy first"!

Friday, May 25, 2007


At 8:15 a.m. this morning Claire Willoughby was ushered into heaven and I am guessing all the angels smiled when she arrived. Claire always made people smile when they were in her presence.

Pastor Ward and Claire came to Grace aout nine years ago, following over fifty years of ministry Ward had shared as a pastor in various locations within the Assembly of God denomination. Both had been widowed and renewed a friendship that led to their marriage almost ten years ago. I had the privilge of performing their wedding ceremony and all of us were convinced this was "a marriage made in heaven".

Watd has been on staff and Claire has been an invaluable asset to him. Caring for our senior citizens has been their primary responsibility and Claire's smiles and sweet cards punctuated the ministry of love and wisdom Ward extended to our church family.

Claire's life in recent years had been marked by a struggle with pain, particularly in her back. She also had open heart surgery and ongoing battles with a weakened heart condition and recently was diagnosed with a lung disease which contributed to her rapid deterioration physically.

Still, there was never a time that I visited with Claire that she failed to make me smile. My last visit with her, about six days ago, she was in and out of a state of awareness. I held her face in my hands to get her attention to tell her I loved her and I was leaving and would be back. She awakened, opened her eyes, and smiled at me as she said "You better!"

It seems trite to say "We will miss her", but these words take on an aura of truth and meaning for those of us who knew her well. Her smile that lifted our spirits will no longer grace the corridors of our church, or the fellowship opportunities where she always sparkled.

We are sad for us...but glad for her. And we are confident that she has plenty to smile about now with a refurbished back and a new heart and clear lungs. What certainly remains the same is her infectious smile.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

two weeks and counting...

The promise of a sabbatical break draws closer; in fact, two weeks from today we will be en route to a wedding I will be performing in Southern California. Three days after that we will be on a cruise ship to the Mexican Riviera!

We are in the middle of several crises in church families--one of our staff member's wife is dying, one of our young men just had major brain surgery, and there are a number of other significant challenges in process.

Not exactly the right time to take a sabbatical...

Except I know that this is what every week in the ministry looks like...and I am not indispensable.

I am reminded these days of the wonderful group of devoted people with whom I serve at Grace Fellowship Church and how privileged I am to receive this generous gift of time away.

As a result, in the midst of crisis, I can say with a smile...I am glad God doesn't take a sabbatical!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

My mom

Sunday was Mother's Day, and following our morning services, we drove about fifty miles to a setting with a beautiful back yard in the middle of a peaceful country setting. I jumped into the icy cold pool, assisted my twin brother in barbecuing an assortment of meats, and sat down to a potluck dinner prepared by our family--mom, sister, brother and sister-ib-law, nephew and niece (and her five year old) and my sweet wife.

Mom, of course, was the guest of honor. She read the note Bev and I wrote on a special card and cried, and the made a big deal out of some fine candy and a potted plant for her home. She received a bundle of cards and, deservedly so, was the center of my attention.

I watched her as she watched us--her family--visit together, laugh with one another, play Catch Phrase, and enjoy each other's company (as we always do) even though our sister, Joy was missing with her family in Arkansas. I sensed she was proud, as she surveyed the "fruit of her labors". My brother and I are ministers, our sister, Diane (shown above in the picture with mom), is a Christian school teacher, and Joy is married to a minister. No wonder, she--a minister's wife for over forty years--smiles.

My mother will eighty-three in July and I am expecting to spend lots more Mother's Days with her. But this last week I was glad for this year's edition--a special time of celebrating our terrific mom!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Divine appointment

In the early days of my return pastoring in Amador County I ran a painting business on the side, to supplement my earnings. I ultimately handed off the painting to a recovering alcoholic who worked hard for several years. However, the complete ruination of a large painting job as a result of his return to drinking resulted in my momentary brush with a total breakdown. I was scheduled to speak at Silver Lake Chapel, a rustic retreat in the mountains in a chapel overlooking a scenic lake, and I decided I needed to cancel. I was too emotionally-drained, I felt, to even preach.

But, thankfully (providentially), my wife persuaded me that the trip away for two days would be just what I needed...and she made me promise to shut down my painting business.

It was a typically beautiful summer weekend and the little chapel's setting, idyllic in every way, brought me much-needed rest and rejuvenation. The little chapel was packed, with campers seated out to the porch area in front. I am uncertain what I shared but after the service a man, a little older than me, obviously moved by the service, , approached me to tell me he had not been in church since the death of his mother as a teenager. He asked me where our church was located and said he would come and visit me sometime.

Well, that promise resulted in five families driving 45 minutes every Sunday to our services in Amador County. Two of those families have become a vital part of Grace Fellowship even to this day.

Yesterday I ate lunch with the man who approached me after that Silver Lake service. We have become good friends and he is moving out of the area to a retirement setting--out of driving distance. I felt sadness as we shared together and reminisced about the circumstances that brought us together. But I felt joy at the strengthening of his faith.

Just across the restaurant from us was a familiar face, though marked with signs of dissipation and ruin. It was the man I had hired to paint years ago who informed me he was on his way to serve nine months in the county jail for a variety of offenses. He thanked me for how I had helped him in the past. I hugged him and told him I would be praying for him...and I will undoubtedly visit him in jail.

Coincidences...or divine appointments> I know what my choice would be!

And by the way, I have never hired out for painting since I made that promise to my wife!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Velma Church

I am a twin so I have a natural affinity for twins. Velma, and her twin sister, Thelma, are two special ladies in their mid-eighties. They attend Grace Fellowship Church when they can and my hsitory with them goes back over thirty years.

When I moved to Pine Grove in 1976 Velma, and her husband, Henry, had been pastoring the church I cam to lead as they retired. The house our family moved in to, was owned ny Thelma. I recently participated in Henry and Velma's 60th wedding anniversary and just a year ago Henry went to be with the Lord and I had the honor of participating in his memoiral service.

I recently had visited with Velma in church and more recently at the funeral for a mutual friend. She and Thelma were inseparable and they would always greet me with contagious smiles and the spirit of gentleness that was characteristic of them both.

On Sunday morning I was greeted with the mews that Velma had died in her sleep and gone to be with the Lord. it was a busyt Sunday--our Dedication--but my thoughts immediately turned to sadness, even though just for a moment. I called Thelma and she shared with me some of the details of Velma's death but then our conversation turned to the affirmation of her certain reunion with Jesus in heaven.

People like Velma are irreplacable. Velma's smile was unforgettable. Although Iw ill miss her funeral due to a family wedding in nashville, my thoughts will be of Velma and the indelible imprint she made upon my life. Welcome home to your reward in heaven, Velma, faithful servant of God.

I know she's smiling!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


It hardly seems possible that after thirty months of construction, and six months in our new facilities...we are finally having a dedication service (the one planned for October, 2006).

Sunday, April 22nd at 10:00 a.m. we will gather for a special worship service and at 3:00 p.m. the community will join us in a service of dedication. Why bother?

It is important for me that we affirm to our congregation that this dedication is not about a building; it is about the ministry we envisioned that prompted our construction.

It ie equally significant that we have an opportunity to say to our community, "This building is for you. Come, and bring your families and worship Christ with us. Come and meet Christ here!"

It truly is NOT about the building, and, yes, you can meet Christ anywhere.

But He will be here, too.

So will we, seeking to do the ministry to which He has called here...and there.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Home at last!

Eighteen months ago Valerie was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Since then she has battled ferociously the ravages of cancer and a short-circuited life that threatened to take her prematurely from her husband, three small boys and extended family.

She died this evening at 9:30 p.m.

This morning I read her blog, updated almost daily by a family member or friend--most often her father--chronicling her journey. As I read today I sensed it might be the day God called her home and so I chose to read from her father's recent comments in my sermon today.He referred to II Corinthians 4:18, " we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal." I spoke from John 20:19-31 and Thomas' battle with doubt but his confession of faith upon confronting the risen Christ, "My Lord and my God!"

I have personally grieved Valerie's difficult journey. She is my wife's daughter-in-law's sister, and she lived with her for a period of time twelve years ago. I met her several times--just short vignettes--but observed someone beautiful and vibrant with life. I have two daughters of my own and I have experienced deep empathy with Valerie's father as he openly shared his emotions on the blog site that posted information about Valerie's journey.

He wrote tonight about the certainty that she was at home with the Lord.

Home at last! What a glorious comfort!

Please pray for this family this week. They will be grieving the loss of a daughter, a mother, and a wife, and for many others, a special friend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I pastored in Pine Grove, a nearby town, nearly thirty years ago. A member of my congregation was Des Cranfill, a man then already in his early seventies. He was a saint--all believers are referred to as such--but he was the genuine article. His favorite song was a Dallas Holm song entitled "Rise Again" that was written about that time. A friend of mine and his wife sang it with me the first Easter Sunday it was out, and it was moving for all of us--especially Des.

Des was 102 years old to the day when he went to be with the Lord on Monday. He had been in a convalescent care facility and had steadily failed since he broke his hip several months ago. I was with him on Sunday evening and, though he was in a coma-like state, I whispered to him the words "Yes, I'll Rise again..." I am not sure he heard them but in just a few hours he was literally whisked away into the presence of God.

A couple of days before he died--the last day he was conscous--I walked into his room where members of his family had gathered. Because he was almost deaf I shouted into his ears, "How are you doing, Des?" he recognized my voice, lifted up his head from the pillow and said for all to hear, "I love you, pastor", and then begin to sing the words, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty..."

Those were his last words to me--the last words he spoke that were understood. What a way to remember my friend, Des!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Resurrection Hope

In the great resurrection chapter of the Bible in I Corintians 15 Paul reminds us that if we have hope only in this world we are miserable, or, to be pitied.

Valerie, our daughter-in-law's sister, is causing us to evaluate our resurrection hope as we approach Easter. Eighteen months ago she was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer and she has been gallantly fighting its assault with her husband and three small children looking on. Her father and mother and extended family have chronicled her journey on a web site and the entries have echoed her family's faith in God.

Just last week Valerie was brought home from the hospital and placed under hospice crisis care. This mornng's blog says she is somewhat stronger today and the crisis team has left, though her condition remains critical. Earier blogs revealed that the children were in counseling, preparing them for what seems to be inevitable.

Death is inevitable for all of us. There is a darkness and a sadness about death that is inescapable. Grief is unavoidable when we contemplate the loss of a loved one's life.

But resurrection hope casts a light of anticipation and ultimate joy for the believer. A church family told me Sunday their 102 year old father was failing and I reflected on my visit with him earlier last week and his smile when we talked of heaven. For Valerie, only thirty-eight years old, her life seems short-circuited and relinquishment of it to God's divine purpose must be a much more challenging option.

As Easter approaches for Valerie, for my friend, Des, and for me, my prayer is that resurrection hope will lift us to the realization that God has made us for more than this world, and that what awaits us on the other side of death, is an eternity of joy in His presence.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Evaluating family ministry...

Twenty of us met today to discuss the growing number of young families at our church. We acknowledged, as well, the increased variety of challenges including single parent homes, blended families, "deadbeat" dads, cultural redefinitions of family and roles, options to public education including home-schooling...and the list goes on. Each of these factors--and others--make us ask, "What can we do to build stronger families?"

Several pieces of information have motivated me afresh to ask this question. A single mother told me about her daughter's losing battle with meth addictiton; another mother of six (friend of my sister) fell out of a swing and broke her neck, leaving six chidlren motherless. And there are the daily phone calls detailing family crises of every color and form--more than we can effectively counsel and address with our current personnel resources.

Sadly enough, the battle for the family is being lost as much within the church as without. Divorce, premarital sex, infidelity--these things, and more, are prevalent among believers even though they are allegedly committed to the teachings of the Word of God which warns against each. Ministers, as the news reminds us almost weekly, have succumbed to the temptations of marital failure, in alarming numbers. even amongst our leaders in the church there is alarming evidence that God's word is not being taken seriously.

What can we do?

As we evaluate family ministries at Grace we are being drawn back to the teachings of scripture that talk about the role of a husband and wife, the training of children and the principles of maintaining healthy relationships. Even as I write these words I can sense the cultural antipathy towards words like "roles" and "training", as if they were archaic remnants of a hideous past.

The dissipation of the family unit parallels the concomitant descent into what has become a largely dysfunctional society. The fact that there are those who clamor for same sex marriages, punishment for those who spank their children, and other things that were unthinkable to us decades ago, only accentuates the dangerous path we are on. It mirror the demise of other great civilizations who abandoned values that once were critical to their internal strength.

As we evaluate family ministry, we realize we occupy a very small spot on the horizon of the future. But at Grace we feel compelled to a better job of teaching what the Word of God proclaims to be true...though it may make us the object of ridicule, even from those who sometimes attend.

In May I will present a series AT Grace on the subject, "The Family...According to the Bible". Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Missions Faire

Every year at Grace Fellowship we have a missions conference weekend. It has looked familiar the last several years--though it has been well-done--but was curiously absent of young families. Our Board of World Missions decided to address that issue this year, figuring that if we don't get young families involved NOW, our missions program in the future could be on unsteady ground.

Enter the Missions Faire, a wonderfully interactive environment for families to see and feel missions. Nineteen booths housed the various missionary enterprizes we support--both foreign and local--and were complete with video presentations, slide shows, pictures, hand-out materials of various related subjects, as well as some hands-on activities for children. These booths were manned by local church people, in some cases, and by visitng and local missionaries as they were available.

The net result was a significant increase in participation and many comments reflecting on the effectiveness of an atmosphere that engaged our senses--allowing us to literally have a visual and sensory exposure to the various missionary outreaches we support. It was exciting for me to see young children pounding nails into boards-as if they were constructing a building to house missionary activity--and staring curiously at videos of far-away places that probably seem like another world to them.

It was equally gratifying to see our church families working hard to construct booths, communicate with missionaries so they could effectively decorate a booth with appropriate artifacts and pictures from their country, and enthusiastically answer questions while welcoming guests to the various mission outreaches they represented.

Many of the missionaries participated in the Sunday morning interactive sermon I prepared, utilizing their testimonies as a n illustration of how we can be "salt" and "light"--each one of us--in a world that so desperately needs the good news of the gospel (Matthew 5:13-16).

Marty Hooper (wife, Maxine)--evangelist to the world (affectionaely dubbed by me, "Pastor of Peace"), Bob and Lisa Margaron, missionaries to the very needy "underbelly" of Stockton's gang neighborhoods, and Mike and Shirley Pounds, working through City Team Missions in the most troubled area of San Francisco all helped to bring missions "home" to us as they shared over the weekend. These are missionaries that are closely-alligned with us at Grace and close nearby geographically, enabling us to benefit from their insights during the year.

All in all, our Missions Fires, so ably orchestrated by Paul Wesseler, was a huge success. It was not a Missions Faire--but a Mission Superbly done!

Monday, March 05, 2007

worship and weeds

Following a wonderful Sunday morning of worship I was transitioned on Monday to a job of weeding--something I wanted to do.

It was a little cloudy--but a patchy blue sky overhead--and the springlike warmth of a late morning sun enveloping me--that made me revel in the moments of extricating weeds that had invaded a new planter area with reckless abandon. My primary concern was that these weeds appeared ready to mount a takeover and their deceitful lush green was shrouding the potential beauty of an area to be appropriately planted with flowers and color.

And so I weeded, sitting in the middle of the planter area and filling my plastic bag with weeds to be later disposed of in a large wheel barrel, and then carted off to "weed heaven". My wife had turned on some music--some religious, some not--but it was a secondary background to the beauty of the moment and the contemplation of the task.

In a few hours the weeds were gone, the appropriate cleanup accomplished and my wife and I surveyed our accomplishment with some measure of pride amd satisfaction. There is planting still to be done, but the "wretched" job of pulling weeds is history.

I want to worship on Sundays. Sometimes I have to extract some things from my mind--pull out the weeds--but the process enables me to observe the true beauty of God.

Such "weeding" may be the precursor to true worship.

It is if you want a garden of flower and color with the face of God not obscured from view.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

saturday nights

Tomorrow is Sunday, not a day of rest for a minister. I come to Sundays with a mixture of emotions often reflective of the week preceding. This week my seven year old grandson was sick and ended up in the hospital having surgery in Dallas (pretty scary!), my wife's mother had an incident that precipated conversations about assisted living, two families told me they were moving to another church (for various reasons), a young father with a big family had some tough chemotherapy, a good friend's mother died after a short bout with cancer, my wife's sister had knee replacement surgery...and it snowed.

But it's Saturday night. A time for reflection, a time for anticipation.

What do I have to say tomorrow that will matter to anyone who has been in any of the common situations I have described above? Why would anyone leave their world of confusion and crisis to come to church?

That's why I love Saturday nights because I know tomorrow IS Sunday.

And people will come--not everyone I wish would be there--but they will come. They will come to serve, to worship, to listen, to open their hearts to the Word of God.

And I will be there. Not alone, but with the Word of God which, midst all the events of the week, has been the steadying influence in my life. I humbly carry its truth into the pulpit, and even though there will be some who are skeptical--and probably a few naysayers--God's Word will go forth.

Maybe imperfectly, and, certainly, through a flawed mouth piece.

But Saturday night will have passed, Sunday morning will have come, and there will be new words of truth to embrace and new hope for another week.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Chris Cooper plays a conflicted character in this newly-released movie about a real life American spy who sold huge security secrets to the Soviet Union. We are shown a man of highly-developed family values and fervent religious principles. At the same time, his fascination with lurid pornography as well as his deliberate betrayal of his countrymen leading to their execution is revealed to us.

We are left to wonder what made Richard Hanssen do what he did? No answers are forthcoming in this vivid portral of a man who breaches the most basic of human ethics in his pursuit of subliminal political goals as well as the money he decries as unimportant.

The breach apparent to me is with his own conscience. It is so savagely-seared that he can peacefully co-exist with the innocent love of his grandchildren and the open-affirmation of his faith in God while at the same time navigating a course of eventual self-destruction.

There is a potential breach in all of us of what is good and right and ethical. It is fed and nurtured by our sinful and self-destructive nature. We cannot avert its inevitable destruction unless we submit to the voice of God and the wooing of the Holy Spirit calling us to true faith in God, the One who made us for so much more than what we often settle.

Friday, February 16, 2007

the pluses and minuses of paint

The church has offices in a building constructed in the 1870's and moved to our church property fifteen years ago. It is an old victorian house, and even with the building of new facilities, we decided to preserve our "quaint" office space here.

Recently, we determined we needed more office space so we have been in the process of rennovating the upstairs, where we can locate at leats four new office areas. What our limited budget allows for, primarily, is paint. I just came down from surveying the work and made these mental observations.

1. Paint covers a multitude of sins.

2. Paint does not cover all the history.

3. Paint only a temporary "fix".

The first impression upon walking upstairs is "Wow! This looks great!" And it does. There is a cleanness and a freshness to the space that is obvious.

A closer look, however, reveals some history about the walls and the space that indicate there are some things deeply beneath the surface of the walls that cannot be hidden.

Fianlly, upon reflecting on the painting, I've noted that in time there is some more serious renonovation that will need to take place, when we are willing to spend the money and to do the work.

Dealing with outward appearances may appear to be a means to feelng beter. Inevitably, though, closer examination of ourselves reveals that there is work left to be done. In the end, the outward "recasting" only delays the inevitable--though it may give a momentary reprieve--but at best, is a temporary fix.

We can't "paint over" the deep issues that lie beneath the surface of our lives. Sooner or later, they will emerge to be dealt with.

Laying the paint brush aside may be costly in comparison to pursuing the alternatives of true healing and restoration, but in the end, the value will be more than that achieved by an inexpensive paint job.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


A treadmill does not provide scenic accompaniment to exercise. Going up and down our local high school bleachers is also less than inspiring in terms of landscape and atmosphere.

Today I decided to drive a few short miles to a nearby river. I parked my car and then proceeded to walk three miles along the meandering Mokelumne River. The sun was shining--it was a cool crisp 55 degrees--and the water was racing, the beneficiary of a recent 2-3 inch downpour long overdue in our county. All in all, it was delightful and I came back to my office rejuvenated!

We often refer to life as a journey. We talk about our daily "walk" with God. All too often our walk can be treadmill-like, simply going through the motions because we have to. At other times it is overwhelmingly arduous, much like running up and down bleacher steps until we are breathless with exhaustion.

But there are times when our walk with Him is like sharing a stroll along a meandering river, with all of the beauty of His creation surrounding us, the stillness of the quiet blue sky enveloping us and the music of rushing water serenading us. It is as if the voice of God whispers to us, "Be still and know that I am God".

Walks like this are the wonderful part of the journey.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

a long look at a short life

Just recently I have been aware of the fact that people don't always live into their 70's and 80's.

*A friend of mine is 48, diagnosed with multiple myaloma and preparing for a stem cell transplant--five children under the age of thirteen

*His sister-in-law was recently diagnosed at age 37 with a severe form of breast cancer, five young children

*My stepson's friend's sister discovered her 37 year old husband dead from a heart attack in bed three weeks ago, four children

*Our daughter-in-law's sister has terminal liver cancer, 38 years old, three children under the age of eight

Enough already!

The topper is a nineteen year old from our church suffering with recurring acute mylocitic leukemia, just having undergone a bone marrow transplant three weeks ago.

What does all of this say to me--lamenting the fact that I have recently edged nearer to age sixty? (see previous blog)

It makes James 4:13-15 take on renewed meaning...

"Come now ye that say Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city and continue there a year and buy and sell and get grain; Whereas ye know not what shall be on the next day. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time and then vaisheth away. For ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live and do this or that..."

I am persuaded that God knows the time available to us and it is ours to spend wisely or to waste foolishly.

Making every day count seems an appropriately trite reduction for each new day.

That's the long and short of it.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I have reached fifty-nine
it isn't

I fear I'm out of time
to matter

I wish I were "sunshine"
by design
to enlighten

I'd give away what's mine
to serve

I know I'm "on the line"
at fifty-nine
I am

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Around my house the word "diet' is not allowed.

And for good reason. I have abused it, beat it up, massaged it, worn it out.

So my new phrase for 2007 is "meal plan". It seems easier to digest than "diet", don;t you think?

It really isn't that I am so fat (no comments, please) but more that I am getting old-ER (I hear the hearty "amens"). The older I get the less excited I am about expending energy to carry this extra weight around.

And then there is the issue of exercise. I pretty much took a "sabbatical" (almost gives nobility to my failure) from working out, walking and sports due to the challenging and time-consuming project last year of helping to build our new facilities.

A new plan is what I have decided upon--complete with an exercise program, special parameters for eatin, and a menu that addresses my specific health concerns. I am in the second week of doing this and already I am feeling energized and I am even losing weight.

How about a new spiritual exercise program and "meal plan"? I am looking at that as well, seeking to incorporate the same disciplines in my spiritual life that I am attempting in my physical life. Here are some examples.

*Joining a health club for exercise, self-coercion (if I spend this money, I have to justify the expense by using this)

*Establishing accountability partners (sharing my areas of vulnerability with a buddy and asking him to check on how well I am doing)

*Pursuing daily prayer with my mate (if I verbalize my needs in prayer, my wife will know where I need God's help)

*Sharing in a Bible study with others (if I have to set aside time to go, I will make it a priority)

*Investing in someone else's spiritual growth (if I sense a friend's need, I am compelled to respond as a disciple)

All of the above things are on my new meal plan for the year. These are not necessarily new things, but they are components of the discipline I know is essential if I am going to be spiritually healthy. I find that these are things that energize my relationship with God and enable me to act out my faith with greater excitement.

I don't want to carry the weight of self-indulgence around as a believer, nor do I want to become sedentary about sharing my faith. It is easy to miss these things until one day you take a good look at yourself in the mirror of God's Word and you say, "What's happening to me? I am getting fat and lazy!"

It's time for a new meal plan for me; how about you?